Core Interdisciplinary Senior Seminar

Lecture.jpgThe Core Interdisciplinary Senior Seminar unites studies in the liberal arts and sciences; integrates knowledge; and involves sophisticated analysis, synthesis, and defense of original ideas. Taught by full-time faculty from across the university, Core Interdisciplinary Senior Seminars feature small class sizes and active student involvement in the exploration and integration of knowledge on a variety of topics. All Core Interdisciplinary Senior Seminars are designed to meet a set of common learning outcomes—students:

  • Create an artifact that communicates and defends the student’s original ideas based on synthesis of the course topic and his/her interdisciplinary Core education.
  • Analyze, synthesize, and evaluate significant ideas from across the arts and sciences.

CORE 430.01 – Is My Social Justice Your Social Justice?
Professor Robert Engvall

logo of Core seminarThis course attempts to address each of the five domains of the interdisciplinary core in keeping with the goal of developing ourselves educationally as fully as we might. This course will investigate the relationships among social policy and social justice, and the implications of power, race, gender, and marginalization issues upon social justice. It begins by considering the various definitions of social justice and will proceed to study how social policy pursues different potential visions of social justice. The impact of social policy on justice as a concept and as a practice will also be studied. The effect of social justice and social policy upon racial, gender, economic, and ethnic inequality will be studied both as perceived in our lives and through our institutions. Social justice and injustice as played out before us and reported on by the media in various forms, will be fodder for discussion. Inevitably, it seems, there will be current issues that surface in which students will be able to study what they learn in class through the lens of what they are seeing unfold around them.

CORE 430.02 –  Language and Society
Professor Don Lee

This course will examine language usage from a wide range of the human experience, including science, history, psychology, sociology, politics, business, media, philosophy, literature, and art. Language is like air and water – essential for human life, but, because it’s all around us all the time, people tend to take it for granted, until its well being is threatened. So, humans must be thoughtful and ethical users and caretakers of language. Three core questions serve as the foundation and guide for the course: Who am I? What can I know? Based on what I can know, how shall I live?

CORE 430.03 — Great Powers and Great Responsibilities:  Superheroes, Politics, Society and Identity
Professor Annika Hagley

In this course students will engage with primary superhero/graphic novel texts and secondary critical theory drawn from the fields of psychoanalysis, film studies, philosophy, queer theory, critical race theory, feminist theory, science, aesthetics, religion and politics to explore distinct superhero identities that reflect certain marginalized groups and notions of “other” and understand the many ways in which the genre spills into several academic fields of study.

CORE 449.01 – Environmental Ethics
Professor Timothy Scott

Whereas ethics examines the interaction of humans with humans, Environmental Ethics examines the interaction of humans with nature. This is a relatively young field of study originating from a series of highly visible, interdisciplinary conflicts over resource management and conservation biology. It took years for society to recognize that we have the ability to irreversibly alter the environment, and even longer for us to develop a conscience over the result. Although we might like to think that the application of logical,
objective scientific reasoning to environmental problems will lead to correct decisions, this is rarely the case. This course will introduce students to the philosophical, social, political, legal, economic and aesthetic considerations of environmental policy decisions. Students will come to understand the science behind a series of diverse environmental topics and then examine and balance the alternative perceptions that present themselves. This will engender discussion and reflection on the central questions of the RWU Core program (Who am I? What can I know? Based on what I know, how should I act?) as applied to environmental policy decisions.

CORE 450.01 – Are We of It or Against It? People and Their Planet in the 21st Century
Professor Joseph Roberts

Artists, poets, novelists, filmmakers, photographers, scientists, historians and policymakers all attend to the relationships between people and their natural surroundings. Those in the creative arts tend to focus on the glory of nature often with little reference to, or even a conscious avoidance of, the role people play in nature; those in the social and physical sciences examine humanity’s increasingly intrusive interactions with nature. In this course we will investigate the place of humans in nature through the lens of multiple disciplines. We will read selections from nature writers and poets, including Wait Whitman, Annie Dillard, Barry Lopez, Edward Abbey and W.S.

Merwin. Photographers Ansel Adams and Galen Rowell and the painters of the Hudson River school will join these writers to draw our attention to the complexity, beauty and interrelatedness of the natural world. The work of scientists, historians and policy analysts will serve as a counterpoint to these works as they draw out attention to the
negative impact of human activity on the natural world.

CORE 453.01 – Obsession: Understanding
Professor Ted Delaney

Through readings, discussion, presentation, field trips and a research paper, this seminar will explore who we are and what we value through the collections we build. Gathering, preserving and displaying will be explored through psychological, social, scientific, historical, economic, aesthetic and political lenses. Students will read significant texts from a wide variety of disciplines addressing the particular problems of collecting in diverse fields of inquiry. Using the theories, ideas, and approaches gleaned from various disciplinary sources, students will understand how their own field of study is effected by the moral, esthetic, and social issues of collecting, saving, and displaying
culturally or personally significant objects. This history of collecting, its personal and political motivations, as well as the ethical and scientific questions raised by collecting everything from paintings to biological specimens to postage stamps will be studied.

CORE 459.01 – Popular Culture and Globalization
Professor Jennifer Stevens

This Core Interdisciplinary Senior Seminar will explore how popular culture and globalization have had, and continue to have, an impact on our lives (on both a local and a global scale). The nature of popular culture itself, as a particular kind of culture, will be examined and various examples of popular culture will be considered. The nature of globalization, as both a historical and contemporary phenomenon, will also be addressed as a topic in and of itself. Through examining these two significant forces separately and in relationship to each other we will gain a greater understanding of how these two phenomena influence our lives and the world in which we live. This understanding will allow us to more fully answer the central core questions: Who am I? What do I know? Based on What I know, what should I do?

CORE 430.01 — Globetrotting: Inventing and Reinventing Ourselves
Professor Kate Mele

logo of Core seminarWhy do we travel?  Who do we become when we travel?  Why do we tend to think of travel as promoting a greater good?  As we go into the core of travel, we will ask these questions and others about who we are, what we can know, and how we should act—all the while focusing on travel’s transformational nature.  We will consider travel as a means for self-knowledge, cultural knowledge, and scientific knowledge, and we will critically examine how, at various stages in human history, travelers have participated in transforming worldviews.  Drawing from the fields of literature, philosophy, history, science, technology, psychology, anthropology, and art, readings and research will delve into the types of travel humans have embarked upon across time—from the pilgrimage to the slum tour and from the industrial revolution to the digital revolution.  Students will have an opportunity to discuss their own travel in light of their reading and research.  Prior travel is not required for the course.  

CORE 430.02 — Beyond Belief: Science and Religion in America
Professor Christina Rawls

The science versus religion narrative is popular among commentators on science and religion, but the relationship between science and religion is more complex than headlines of conflict and competition. This course explores the relationship between science and religion in America in broad terms. Topics include the role of science and religion in the life of the individual and in society, the history of the interaction between science and society and what influences have shaped that interaction. We will also examine what is it that scientists and religious practitioners are doing, and if it differs from what they often think they are doing. We will examine the characteristics of a “good” or “convincing” argument and how scientific and religious themes have been appropriated for political ends. We will use current events as case studies to demonstrate the intersection between science and religion.

CORE 430.03 — Composing a Life
Professor Alan Canestrari

Graduation from college comes with both advantage and an array of ethical and moral responsibilities to self and the global society. This Core Curriculum Capstone course offers students opportunity to examine these advantages and responsibilities across disciplines and through a variety of theoretical frameworks and modes of expression. Utilizing literature, the arts, and other textual and non-textual modes of expression students will reflect on, and investigate, new possibilities in order to realize the promises of interdisciplinary models as a way to address the continuities and discontinuities of life. Students can expect to read, write, converse, lead presentations and reflect on the wide range of interpretations found in selected essays, novels, contemporary issues, and activist models, within the arts and sciences.  Selections will include the essays of Mary Catherine Bateson, Ann Gibson Winfield, Ta-Nehisi Coates, David Brooks, and Laurie Ann Thompson, the novels of Jesmyn Ward, Puccini’s final opera, Turandot, the art collection at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCa) and the activism of Appalshop.

CORE 430.04 & .05 – Language and Society
Professor Don Lee

This course will examine language usage from a wide range of the human experience, including science, history, psychology, sociology, politics, business, media, philosophy, literature, and art. Language is like air and water – essential for human life, but, because it’s all around us all the time, people tend to take it for granted, until its well being is threatened. So, humans must be thoughtful and ethical users and caretakers of language. Three core questions serve as the foundation and guide for the course: Who am I? What can I know? Based on what I can know, how shall I live?

CORE 430.06 — War Propaganda
Professor Robin Stone

This course will investigate the use of propaganda in global mass communication, emphasizing its usage in creating and sustaining public support for war. The students will research and analyze governmental and private enterprise sponsored use of propaganda in various forms of mass communication such as public speeches, print art, newspapers, magazines, radio, television, cinema, digital media, and the internet. This course builds upon the foundation of the five interdisciplinary Core courses making connections between the domains of science, history, human behavior, aesthetics, and philosophy and literature towards a better understanding of the socio-cultural relationships between making war and public perception.

CORE 442.01 — Prejudice & Institutional Conflict
Professor Bonita Cade

In this course we explore the conditions that promote some of the most devastating aspects of human experience. We also look at the options available to citizens, minority and majority members, caught in the complex web of interpersonal relations in these societies. The Holocaust and other genocides will be used to assess cultural commonalities. We approach these events from an interdisciplinary perspective drawing on the historical antecedents, scientific contributions, uses of art and literature, philosophical rationales, propaganda campaigns, and social scientific orientations. Discussion concludes with an exploration of ways by which individual prejudice can be reduced and with an investigation of measures which may prevent further episodes of genocide. Texts include: Night/Dawn, Conscience and Courage, short stories by Singer, Books of Evil.

CORE 445.01 – Creating the American Image: 1919-1941
Professor David Moskowitz

The common materials selected for this seminar are works created by Americans during the period of study that reflects the developing American image contemporary with their time. Additionally, students undertake and present the results of independent research on significant individuals, events, and trends of the period to broaden the area of class inquiry. Weekly discussion focuses on assessing and combining information from all sources to find common threads that connect this pivotal time period with our own. Readings include: The Beautiful and Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald; Arrowsmith by Sinclair Lewis; Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston; The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck.

CORE 446.01 – Visions of Utopia: Dreams and Delusions
Professor Nancy Nester

Literally, the word “utopia” means “no place.” Yet, throughout history, people have imagined they could establish an ideal community in this temporal world of time and space. Often, the societies they envisioned were more just, prosperous, spiritual, beautiful, or compassionate than those that existed; at other times, what they proposed could only be characterized by the greed, cruelty, and ignorance it would engender.

Participants in this course will study “utopia” as a concept and a theme, a theory and a practice. This survey will take us from the pages of Thomas More’s Utopia to the ungoverned virtual space of the Internet. In the process, we will consider the way knowledge of utopias and dystopias shapes our world view and forms our ethos. Readings include: The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, Looking Backward by Edward Bellamy, Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Utopia by Thomas More, The Republic by Plato, Walden Two by B.F. Skinner, and Night by Elie Wiesel.

CORE 450.01, 02, 03 – Are We of It or Against It? People and Their Planet in the 21st Century
Professors Steven Esons, Joseph Roberts
Artists, poets, novelists, filmmakers, photographers, scientists, historians and policymakers all attend to the relationships between people and their natural surroundings. Those in the creative arts tend to focus on the glory of nature often with little reference to, or even a conscious avoidance of, the role people play in nature; those in the social and physical sciences examine humanity’s increasingly intrusive interactions with nature. In this course we will investigate the place of humans in nature through the lens of multiple disciplines. We will read selections from nature writers and poets, including Wait Whitman, Annie Dillard, Barry Lopez, Edward Abbey and W.S. Merwin. Photographers Ansel Adams and Galen Rowell and the painters of the Hudson River school will join these writers to draw our attention to the complexity, beauty and interrelatedness of the natural world. The work of scientists, historians and policy analysts will serve as a counterpoint to these works as they draw out attention to the negative impact of human activity on the natural world.

CORE 456.01 — The Internet and the Digital Revolution
Professor W. Brett McKenzie

Social commentators in the humanities and sciences have characterized our age of disruptive change as the “Knowledge Revolution”, “Third Industrial Revolution”, or the “Information Revolution”. The clearest example of these changes lies in the Internet with its gargantuan storehouse of data, terrestrial ubiquity, and vast communication reach. Creating and disseminating digital data is the keystone to this revolution. This course examines the origins of the internet, from Jacquard’s loom of the 1840 to the World Wide Web of today, from Morse’s communication with coded pulses to the interlinked fiber optic networks, and from the barter of goods in the marketplace to eBay and iTunes. The course examines the ramifications of these technologies through texts on areas such as the arts, science, education, culture, privacy, crime, national security, the economy, gaming and politics. Participants are expected to lead and participate in seminar discussions on these topics. Participants are expected to have access to the internet, through either a computer or smartphone.

CORE 462.01 – Sexual Identities
Professor Laura D’Amore

This course explores the private and public dimensions of sexual identity from a variety of disciplinary perspectives. Students examine how sexual identities are shaped by historical, social, and cultural factors and how sexual identities affect an individual’s relationship to community, the state, the law, medicine, etc. Course texts are drawn from the fields of history, psychology, sociology, legal studies, biology, philosophy, literature, cinema, fine art, feminist theory, critical race theory, gay and lesbian studies, queer theory, and transgender studies.

Current Core Interdisciplinary Senior Seminar offerings include:

  • Ambiguous Other: Looking at the West as It Looks East
  • Are We of It or Against It? People and Their Planet in the 21st Century
  • Beyond Belief: Science and Religion in America
  • Books: The Life and Love of…
  • Collecting Ourselves: Why We Build, Preserve and Display Collections
  • Creating the American Image: 1919-1941
  • Cultural Creations: Women Across Time
  • Disease and Society
  • Environmental Ethics
  • Families and Society
  • Globetrotting: Inventing & Reinventing Ourselves
  • Great Powers and Great Responsibilities:  Superheroes, Politics, Society and Identity
  • The Internet and the Digital Revolution
  • Is My Social Justice Your Social Justice?
  • It’s All Greek to Us
  • Life, Liberty, and Exceptionality: Disability Studies and Notions of Self
  • Monster Ball: The Dance of Great Arguments About Evil
  • Obsession: Understanding it through the Arts
  • Pathways to Enlightenment: From Alchemy to Zen
  • Perspectives in World Culture: China
  • Popular Culture and Globalization
  • Prejudice and Institutional Violence
  • Researching Race
  • Sexual Identities
  • Technology, Self and Society
  • Visions of Utopia: Dreams and Delusions
  • War Propaganda
  • We the Public (and the Private)